Baby Boomers Tribute "RKO Encino Ranch" 1929-54 So Cal San Fernando Valley
RKO 'Encino Ranch'
The RKO Pictures Encino Ranch consisted of 89 acres located on the outskirts of the City of Encino, California, in the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles River and west of Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area on Burbank Boulevard. RKO Radio Pictures purchased this property as a location to film their epic motion picture Cimarron (1931), (winner of four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing, Best Art Direction, and Best Make-Up). Art Director Max Ree won an Oscar for his creative design of the very first theme sets constructed on the movie ranch which consisted of a complete western town and a three block modern main street built as the Oklahoma (fictional) town of Osage.
In addition to Cimarron scenery, RKO continued to create a vast array of diverse sets for their ever expanding movie ranch that included a New York avenue, brownstone street, English row houses, slum district, small town square, residential neighborhood, three working train depots, mansion estate, New England farm, western ranch, a mammoth medieval City of Paris, European marketplace, Russian village, Yukon mining camp, ocean tank with sky backdrop, Moorish casbah, Mexican outpost, Sahara Desert fort, plaster mountain range diorama, and a football field sized United States map on which Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers danced across in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) Also available were scene docks, carpentry shop, prop storage, greenhouse, and three fully equipped soundstages with an average of over 11,000 square feet each.
A short list of classic movies that contain scenes shot on the RKO Pictures Encino Ranch would include What Price Hollywood? (1932), King Kong (1933), Of Human Bondage (1934), Becky Sharp (1935), "Walking on Air" (1936), Stage Door (1937), "Kitty Foyle" (1940), Citizen Kane (1941), Cat People (1942), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Dick Tracy film noir series (1945-1947), They Live by Night (1948), and many more.
In 1953 Dragnet was the last project to film on the ranch for an NBC 1954 broadcast of an episode entitled "The Big Producer" in which the crumbling lot played the part of a fictitious "Westside Studio". Standing sets exhibited on this particular Dragnet program were a cocktail lounge on modern street, a ranch entry gate with a church and house facades ('George Bailey' wrecked his car there during a snow storm in It's a Wonderful Life" 1946), plaster desert mountain range, ocean tank & sky backdrop used for Sinbad the Sailor (1947), Notre Dame de Paris Carre built for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939), and (the very first sets ever built on the ranch) the award winning western town from Cimarron (1931).
After all those unique themed sets were bulldozed under in 1954, the 'Encino Village' subdivision was built on the property with modern home designs by architect Martin Stern, Jr..